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Fri Feb 22, 2013, 10:24 AM

Slavery-math questions cause uproar at NYC school

http://www.seattlepi.com/news/us/article/Slavery-math-questions-cause-uproar-at-NYC-school-4300138.php



NEW YORK (AP) A school principal said she's "appalled" by a homework assignment that used scenarios about killing and whipping slaves to teach math.

Adele Schroeter has ordered sensitivity training for the entire staff of Public School 59 in Manhattan following last month's assignment, the Daily News reported Friday.

A teacher had asked fourth-graders to write homework questions that blended math and social studies, education officials said. The teacher then used the students' questions, including the slave-related ones, as homework for the class.

One question stated the number of slaves who died while taking over a ship. It asked how many slaves were still alive. The other said a slave was whipped five times a day and asked students to calculate how many times a month he was whipped.


41 replies, 2237 views

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Reply Slavery-math questions cause uproar at NYC school (Original post)
jsr Feb 2013 OP
cali Feb 2013 #1
liberalhistorian Feb 2013 #8
year of the cat Feb 2013 #18
cali Feb 2013 #20
year of the cat Feb 2013 #24
cali Feb 2013 #34
year of the cat Feb 2013 #36
liberalhistorian Feb 2013 #33
lunasun Feb 2013 #2
badtoworse Feb 2013 #3
OceanEcosystem Feb 2013 #4
slackmaster Feb 2013 #5
surrealAmerican Feb 2013 #6
liberalhistorian Feb 2013 #7
joeglow3 Feb 2013 #9
liberalhistorian Feb 2013 #11
ChazII Feb 2013 #13
jberryhill Feb 2013 #28
liberalhistorian Feb 2013 #32
Rex Feb 2013 #10
gollygee Feb 2013 #12
year of the cat Feb 2013 #30
gollygee Feb 2013 #31
Scruffy Rumbler Feb 2013 #14
juajen Feb 2013 #22
treestar Feb 2013 #25
Scruffy Rumbler Feb 2013 #37
Yo_Mama Feb 2013 #15
d_r Feb 2013 #16
Yo_Mama Feb 2013 #17
d_r Feb 2013 #35
Yo_Mama Feb 2013 #41
The Straight Story Feb 2013 #19
SidDithers Feb 2013 #21
gollygee Feb 2013 #23
SidDithers Feb 2013 #26
gollygee Feb 2013 #27
Kalidurga Feb 2013 #29
winter is coming Feb 2013 #38
loyalsister Feb 2013 #39
devilgrrl Feb 2013 #40

Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 10:28 AM

1. This just makes me viciously angry. Why not

"4,752 Jews entered Auschwitz on Tuesday. On Friday, there were 3,437. How many Jews were killed in the gas chambers?"

It's about as stupid and insensitive as you can get. Those stupid pieces of shit teachers need more than sensitivity training.

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Response to cali (Reply #1)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 11:50 AM

8. I just ran this past my 71-year-old

mother, who's a retired English and social studies teacher. She was still picking her jaw up off the floor in disbelief and disgust when I got off the phone with her, and she was gonna call some of her fellow retired teachers about it, she was so upset. Both parents were teachers and I grew up surrounded by educators. Very few of them would have even considered something like this, and the few who were assholes, who would have done and/or sanctioned it, were quickly reported by other teachers and shut down. I don't know WTF is going on at that school, but those teachers need some serious, serious scrutiny and intervention; they shouldn't even be teachers if this is what they're doing.

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Response to cali (Reply #1)


Response to year of the cat (Reply #18)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 12:55 PM

20. Sorry but

that doesn't excuse the idiot teachers who approved it. And it's absurd to defend this by saying: "It's good for students to take away a less-santized version of the horror which was slavery.". Far from less sanitized, it trivializes the horror that was slavery.

And saying "that's how kids are" is both inane and unrelated to the responsibility of the teachers.

this is truly bad practice.

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Response to cali (Reply #20)


Response to year of the cat (Reply #24)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 01:52 PM

34. oh for the love of reason.

do try employing some critical thinking here.

Why on earth suspend the practice of kids writing their own questions when teachers are supposed to be there to screen those questions.

yikes.

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Response to cali (Reply #34)


Response to year of the cat (Reply #18)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 01:49 PM

33. Nope, sorry. My parents are retired teachers, I grew up with teachers,

and I know that most of them would be truly appalled that the teachers here chose to actually use these questions instead of taking advantage of the teachable moment such questions presented. This showed piss-poor judgment on the part of the teachers, and the student teacher who refused to hand out the questions was absolutely correct.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 10:36 AM

2. oh wtf really? outrage again

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 10:39 AM

3. Unbelievably stupid.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 10:46 AM

4. Seriously? Wow. n/t.

 

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 10:49 AM

5. Now I'm uproared too

 

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 11:34 AM

6. The fourth-graders wrote these?

That explains it. I wonder if the children understood just how horrific the situations they wrote about were?

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Response to surrealAmerican (Reply #6)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 11:46 AM

7. You misread the article.

The fourth-graders didn't write the questions, they were asked to respond to them. I don't know who the fuck wrote the questions, but they need to get back in their time machines and head on back to the 1850's.

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Response to liberalhistorian (Reply #7)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 11:54 AM

9. Read it again

The students wrote the questions. However, the teachers still used them.

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Response to joeglow3 (Reply #9)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 12:01 PM

11. Ooops, you're right!

Need more coffee, less posting!

That's almost worse, actually, because the teachers went ahead and used them. Had I been one of the teachers, I would have seen the "teachable moment" and taken the opportunity to explain why the questions were grossly inappropriate and how they could have done the assignment differently and better. I would also have given a lesson in the true daily horrors of slavery.

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Response to liberalhistorian (Reply #11)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 12:15 PM

13. IB at the elementary level

encourages the students to write questions to what they want to know more about. This is certainly a 'teachable moment'. As a recently retired teacher, I agree that this could have been handled much better.

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Response to liberalhistorian (Reply #11)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 01:19 PM

28. "the true daily horrors of slavery"


In what way do these questions fail to convey that?

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #28)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 01:46 PM

32. They make a mockery of them.

They show little respect for what slaves really went through. If you can't see that, well, then..............

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 11:57 AM

10. Looks like the teacher

might need more than just sensitivity training.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 12:08 PM

12. Demographics for this school

http://insideschools.org/elementary/browse/school/41

Statistics
Enrollment: 520
Attendance: 96.2%
Free Lunch: 16.5%
Ethnicity %: 59 W | 5 B | 16 H | 14 A
Reading: 79.8%
Math: 90.5%
English Language Learners: 8.6%
Special Education: 15.7%

I wonder how the 5% of kids who were black felt about seeing these questions. How dehumanizing. Who saw those questions and typed them out and handed them out to the class?

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Response to gollygee (Reply #12)


Response to year of the cat (Reply #30)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 01:32 PM

31. It has some diversity, true

But even if some of the kids who identify as Hispanic come from the legacy of slavery, it's still a small percentage, who might feel pretty awful seeing this presented as a normal, everyday math problem.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 12:16 PM

14. Bravo to the teacher for tying math and history together,

as well as enjoining the students to create math problems, BUT wtf were they thinking to pick these two for use and then disseminating them to all the students in the class? Does this teacher have any critical thinking skills?

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Response to Scruffy Rumbler (Reply #14)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 01:04 PM

22. They should have balanced it with questions about debtors prisons. Slaves didn't owe anybody,

they were owned.

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Response to Scruffy Rumbler (Reply #14)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 01:07 PM

25. There had to be a better way of tying math and history together

Than that.

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Response to treestar (Reply #25)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 02:50 PM

37. Total agreement!

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 12:17 PM

15. Wasn't there a GA school that did something similar?

They were trying to do the same thing - integrate studies across subjects.

Even reading these questions is irksome.

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Response to Yo_Mama (Reply #15)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 12:30 PM

16. IIRC

the Georgia ones were more like "three slaves pick 50 oranges a day, how many oranges are picked" than whippings and milddle passage deaths. Not that it makes it any better of course, but those two questions are particularly macabre - the Georgia ones also were written by adults not by 10-year-olds.

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Response to d_r (Reply #16)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 12:36 PM

17. Except where was the judgment here?

I can understand a fourth-grader (they're just little kids) doing this. I find it hard to understand the teacher passing them out.

I don't remember the GA stuff, but I do remember how offensive and disturbing I found it. And I'm an adult.

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Response to Yo_Mama (Reply #17)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 02:00 PM

35. Oh yeah don't get me wrong

I'm not saying this is OK b/c kids did it. I can't imagine any teacher passing that out or typing it up. I was just saying that the situations were similar but different, neither of them was justifiably in any way, imho.

ETA I was mostly just remembering the earlier one

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Response to d_r (Reply #35)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 03:36 PM

41. I can't imagine it either

My mind is boggled. It was boggled by the other incident, but now it's double-boggled.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 12:46 PM

19. Sounds like home schooling for the klan

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 01:02 PM

21. What if the exercise was more about the slave trade than math?...

The students must have been studying the history of slavery in Social Science.

The questions submitted do reinforce how inhumane the conditions were for slaves.

And if the students learned how reprehensible the slave trade was, as part of the exercise, that's not a bad thing, is it?

Sid

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Response to SidDithers (Reply #21)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 01:06 PM

23. I don't know

It makes it sound like the reason so many slaves died is because the slaves took over the ship, doesn't it?

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Response to gollygee (Reply #23)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 01:13 PM

26. It's hard to get into the mind of a 10 year-old...

I don't know what those students had in mind when they wrote the questions.

How does one handle questions like that? Shutting them down completely creates a less open learning environment. Using the questions improperly is crass and insensitive. Hopefully, there was a teachable moment in there somewhere.

As a parent, I tried never to shut down questions asked by my kids. There was always some message that could be imparted, even if the message was about the question instead of the answer to the question.

If the teacher had written these questions, I'd be just as outraged as the rest. But when the questions come from students, they can't just be ignored.

I dunno.

Sid

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Response to SidDithers (Reply #26)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 01:14 PM

27. I definitely think there was a learning opportunity here

But I don't think the questions should have been typed up and used as a math assignment, particularly without comment as though they were OK.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 01:21 PM

29. Can't blame people for being outraged. And can't blame the 4th graders for asking the questions.

But, we sure can place the blame on the person who went ahead and used those questions. I think as it's been stated before that the questions should have been used as a teachable moment without judgement on the child or children asking the questions. I think as a teacher I might want to talk with the parents about the issue as well. It is really a jaw dropping thing to see these question in black and white on a homework assignment.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 02:54 PM

38. And I thought my kid's homework was a little dated for having word problems about bowling...

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Fri Feb 22, 2013, 03:27 PM

39. Sorry to go Goodwin- but it's inevitable in a thread like this

Schools in NAZI Germany used propaganda to help normalize devaluation of Jews among German children. They used questions about unequal food distribution to imply Jewish people consumed more, etc.

Reducing what were actually common horrifying events to a basic math question almost ridicules the actual situation.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

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